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Chapter 7: Summary and Thoughts on U.S. Cooperation with the PLA

The main objective of this thesis research is to determine how the PLA’s MOOTW act as a means for it to gain experience for conducting large scale war. The cases presented in the previous three chapters demonstrate five general trends:

1. Current PLA mission sets do not directly contribute to improving its large scale war capability.

2. PLA MOOTW do provide a means for PLA airmen, sailors, and soldiers to gain operational experience.

3. Most PLA MOOTW help improve fundamental capabilities that indirectly allow it the opportunity to further develop advanced TTPs.

4. The PLA’s recent success in MOOTW have encouraged China to more frequently project its military power further away from its shores in increasingly complex operations for calculated political gains.

5. The greatest threat that the U.S. faces from increased PLA MOOTW is political in nature. As the PLA conducts increased operations outside of Chinese borders, the U.S.’s relative ability to create goodwill declines, complicating future political strategies.

It should be noted that the practicing of MOOTW missions has the potential of improving a nation’s large scale war capability when activities include combat related elements (such as non-permissive NEO). However, because current PLA MOOTW mission sets involve few wartime practices, they will have little impact on China’s overall ability to wage war.

Nevertheless, because the PLA has not engaged in war since 1979, its current

MOOTW provide a training platform for soldiers to gain operational experience, even for its most senior officers. PLA leaders can exploit MOOTW to identify shortfalls in important areas such as command and control and logistics in order to be more equipped to handle large scale operations. Soldiers at lower levels are able to experience the many challenges of deploying to a foreign nation, which helps them develop foundational capabilities necessary for large scale operations. In other words, the PLA’s recent MOOTW only provide basic experiences for its soldiers that indirectly contribute to their ability to conduct large scale war. But because PLA soldiers now have the opportunity to practice basic skills during real-world operations, they naturally become better at these skills, allowing more room to develop and train in advanced TTPs.

Since the main objective of any MOOTW mission is political in nature, China seeks political gains in terms of greater international respect from its participation in MOOTW.

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Recently, China has utilized humanitarian aid/disaster relief missions, noncombatant evacuation operations, and counterpiracy missions to demonstrate to the international community that it is a responsible global actor. Since 2014, international news agencies began to compare China’s military responses to regional disasters alongside those of the U.S.

and other leading militaries. While China’s capabilities and contributions often fall short of those of the U.S., the fact that the international media continues these comparisons is a

significant indicator of the PLA’s influence on China’s national image. Despite its traditional foreign policy of noninterference, Beijing has discovered that success in MOOTW can

generate significant goodwill towards China. It follows that these increases in soft power can translate into future strategic successes.

Summary of Research

Chapters four through six presented seven case studies of PLA MOOTW from 2008-2015 that illustrate how these operations do not make significant contributions to large scale war. Cases covered three main families of MOOTW including humanitarian aid/disaster relief, noncombatant evacuation operations, and counterpiracy missions. After the case studies were presented, the skills required to successfully conduct specific missions were compared to those necessary to wage large scale war. Results indicated that only

noncombatant evacuation operations in a non-permissive environment significantly

contributed to the PLA’s ability to conduct large scale war. All other missions were assessed to have moderate or minimal impact on China’s ability to conduct large scale war.

Chapter four describes recent PLA humanitarian aid/disaster relief operations. The chapter studied the PLA’s responses to the 2008 Wenchuan earthquakes, 2014 Ebola

Outbreak in Western Africa, and the 2015 Nepal Earthquake. These cases are demonstrative of the PLA’s significant improvements in its ability to respond to disasters. In 2008, the PLA demonstrated that it was able to rapidly deploy large numbers of troops within China’s borders. However, it immediately became clear that there were significant command and control shortfalls, even at the highest levels of the CCP. Strategic reserve forces and national level quick reaction forces were initially deployed, but they had no formal relationship with local authorities. Consequently, troops were not familiar with the local terrain and responses were delayed by the requirement for actions to be approved through dual chains of command at the national and local levels. Often times troops stood idly around awaiting orders while damaged areas received no help (Li, Chinese Civil Military Relations in the Post Deng Era, 2010, p. 29). Furthermore, both senior CCP members and military leaders failed to

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understand how to effectively employ PLA soldiers. Arriving troops were ill-equipped and untrained, resulting in a high number of casualties. Initially, inclement weather prevented PLA troops from accessing the affected areas for more than a day after the earthquake, indicating its inability to operate in all-weather conditions.

Seven years later in 2015, the PLA demonstrated significant improvements in its ability to respond to natural disasters and received widespread international recognition for its contributions to the Nepal earthquake relief efforts. Within hours of the earthquake, the PLA began mobilizing troops to deploy to Nepal; however, these movements required the utilization of the PLAAF’s transport aircraft. This response also indicated that the PLA learned from its mistakes in Wenchuan and remedied equipment shortfalls by bringing modern search and rescue technology such as life detection equipment, advanced entry tools, rescue dogs, and recovery vehicles (Xinhua, Air Force Planes Sent to Nepal for Quake Relief, 2015). Additionally, specialized functional teams deployed to meet specific recovery needs.

Teams included highly trained professionals that included search and rescue responders, medical doctors, and engineers.

The PLAFF demonstrated a capability to surge its transport aircraft and was critical to providing a consistent flow of troops and supplies from China. Three PLA military

helicopters were also provided important contributions to relief efforts through their ability to reach remote areas. However, these operations revealed some important limitations

regarding the PLA’s airdrop capabilities. Due to fears of harming those on the ground, the PLA did not use its IL-76 transport aircraft to conduct any airdrops, and solely relied on helicopters for airborne deliveries. But even the helicopters did not conduct airdrops; thus each helicopter was required to land and offload supplies.

Despite these shortfalls, PLA operations in Nepal were regarded as an overall success and earned China significant international recognition. Besides promoting itself as a

responsible international actor, Beijing also achieved several national security objectives.

Successes include fostering goodwill from Nepal to help prevent instability in Tibet,

diminishing the effects of India’s influence over Kathmandu, garnering greater support for its

“One belt, one road” initiative, and preventing Taiwan from gaining international space by blocking its participation.

Similarly, the PLA’s 2014 successful participation in the west African Ebola crisis demonstrated that China was becoming increasingly willing to project power away from its shores and engage in more complex operations. Although China deployed a relatively small contingent of PLA doctors and nurses, its overall performance was highly regarded. Initially,

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the medical teams faced several challenges, but solutions were rapidly developed and communicated to training centers in China. This procedure provided future teams the opportunity to train using the most up to date procedures and protocols, resulting in

significant improvements to their readiness. Because of the Ebola virus is so lethal, Chinese medical teams developed a robust set of standard operating procedures that prevented cross-infections among both patients and caregivers. The PLA’s success demonstrated that it was able to quickly adapt to unfamiliar challenges and environments and developed standards and training practices consistent with those of a professional army.

This operation also reaffirmed that logistics remain one of the PLA’s greatest challenges when operating far from home. The PLA did not have access to intermediate staging bases, therefore teams deployed with two months’ worth of supplies. Cargo ships resupplied equipment on a bimonthly frequency suggesting that operations were inflexible and that logistics presented a critical vulnerability. Also, because the PLAAF aircraft did not participate in this operation, all airlift requirements were met with commercially chartered Boeing 747s.

The PLA’s fight against Ebola also brought goodwill from west African nations. In Sierra Leone, a hospital that the Chinese help rebuild was renamed the “China-Sierra Leone Friendship Hospital” (Yu, et al., 2016, p. 2) and a Liberian newspaper lauded a Chinese built patient treatment center as “the most comfortable Ebola treatment institution, with the highest quality service since the discovery of the Ebola disease in 1976” (China Military Online, 2015). Besides the doctors and nurses that deployed as part of the Ebola response, an additional 558 PLA troops assigned to the UN Peacekeeping mission in Liberia helped maintain security and assisted in building the treatment facilities (Dong, 2014). The importance of the goodwill generated by the PLA in this region is highlighted by two important facts. First, a significant portion of China’s current participation in UN

peacekeeping operations are located in western Africa. Second, Beijing’s recently announced that it is increasing its troop commitment to UN peacekeeping operations by over 2.5 times its current levels, making it one of the world’s largest contributors in terms of troops to UN peacekeeping operations (Martina & Brunnstrom, 2015).

Chapter five surveyed three recent cases of Chinese noncombatant evacuation operations. Since most of China’s evacuations have not utilized the PLA, the 2014 evacuation from Vietnam was used as a baseline study. The 2011 Libya evacuations and 2015 Yemen evacuations illustrated the PLA’s growing confidence in its NEO capabilities.

Both of these cases demonstrate the importance of PLAN assets being pre-positioned in the

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region to allow a reasonable reaction time. They also emphasize the necessity of intermediate staging bases for operations far away from China. Access to intermediate staging bases requires that China maintain positive diplomatic relations with its host nation counterparts.

In 2011, China conducted its largest NEO since 1949, which was especially remarkable given its great distance from Libya. The PLAAF used four IL-76 transport aircraft that staged in Khartoum, Sudan to evacuate over 1,600 Chinese nationals from Libya.

When the aircraft redeployed to China, they flew directly to Beijing setting a record for the longest distance flown by a PLAAF aircraft (Xinhua, 2011). However, PLAAF assets transported less than 5% of the total evacuees, demonstrating China’s heavy reliance on commercial flights, ferries, and busses. This case is just another example of how logistics create a significant limitation to PLA operations. Nevertheless, a PLAN frigate was re-tasked from its counterpiracy mission in the Gulf of Aden to escort commercial ships

carrying Chinese nationals because of security fears stemming from the instability in Libya’s northern waters. This was the first time that a PLAN asset was utilized to provide protection for Chinese evacuees (Fu, 2011), illustrating that Beijing is increasingly willing to project its growing military power when its national interests are at stake.

Four years later in 2015, the PLAN once again responded to a short-notice re-tasking in order to evacuate Chinese nationals from Yemen. The three PLAN ships deployed to the Gulf of Aden all participated in the evacuation of 595 Chinese nationals from the Yemenis ports of Aden and Hodeidah. The PLAN ships transported the evacuees to nearby Djibouti, where Beijing arranged for the use of commercial aircraft to return its citizens to China.

Beijing also took this opportunity to promote itself as a responsible world power by

responding to several nations’ request for assistance. The PLAN frigate Linyi conducted two additional port calls in Yemen, ultimately allowing China to evacuate a total of 278

foreigners from 15 different nations. Politically, Beijing used Yemen evacuations as a means to announce to the world that the PLA is rapidly transforming into a regional military power, while simultaneously attempting to assuage fears of its rise by promoting itself as a

responsible international actor.

This mission underscores China’s increasing confidence to employ its military in overseas operations. Yemen evacuations represented the first time a PLAN warship was used to evacuate Chinese citizens and also the first time the Chinese military was used to evacuate foreigners from a war zone. These successes along with the 2015 Defense White Paper’s assertion that the PLA has a responsibility to protect its overseas citizens fuel a growing

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domestic expectation that China will continue to increase the frequency and magnitude of its overseas power projection. Analysis indicates that the skills required for NEO in permissive environments have little overlap with those necessary to conduct large scale war. However, in the areas that do overlap, contributions are moderate or significant. On the contrary, there is significant overlap among skills needed for NEO in non-permissive environments and large scale war. Most skills in non-permissive NEO make significant contributions to improving large scale war capability. For these reasons, Sino-U.S. military cooperation is highly unlikely in the NEO family of missions.

Chapter six examines the PLAN’s counterpiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden over the past seven years. Since beginning counterpiracy operations in 2008, the PLAN has deployed 22 Escort Task Forces consisting of three ships. Sailors on initial deployments were undertrained and faced several challenges in several critical areas. During early deployments, command and control was weak, healthcare was inadequate, and morale was poor. Furthermore, poor logistics presented a constant source of anxiety because

replenishment methods were rudimentary and the task force’s supply ship was overtasked.

Consequently, ships were poorly maintained while at sea, and the resupplying of ships with basic necessities such as food and bottled drinking water became a major challenge.

However, as the PLAN gained more experience, it resolved many of these problems.

The PLAN’s modernized reach back capability has provided important improvements in command, control, and communication. Additionally, it has provided sailors with virtual access to experts resulting in the capability to treat more serious healthcare issues and troubleshoot complex maintenance problems. PLAN sailors have also demonstrated their creative capacity by developing their own technology and procedures for preserving fresh vegetables for longer periods of time. Operationally, sailors have gained experience from deploying multiple times and improved pre-deployment training has produced significant operational results. By 2010, special operations forces could escort up to seven vessels at one time and overall operational efficiency increased by 67 per cent (Erickson & Strange, 2013, pp. 88-90).

Politically, China’s counterpiracy missions have provided several benefits. As previously discussed, the PLAN’s forward deployment of its ships provided Beijing with military options for evacuations in both Libya and Yemen. China’s counterpiracy operations have received international recognition for its contribution to the common goods and have also supported Beijing’s campaign to promote itself as a responsible global power.

Furthermore, other nations have begun to show greater respect for the PLAN’s modernization

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efforts, and have been more willing to participate in bilateral and multilateral military exercises. The PLAN also participates in the multilateral SHADE conferences, which is a forum led by the “Big 3” counterpiracy coalitions to deconflict counterpiracy operations, share lessons learned, and collaborate on new strategies.

Despite the increases in the PLAN’s ability to generate international recognition and create goodwill towards Beijing, counterpiracy operations make little contributions in terms of helping China develop large scale war capabilities. Although counterpiracy operations do help the PLAN practice basic naval skills, TTPs used for counterpiracy do not significantly correlate with establishing sea superiority against sophisticated navies. Furthermore,

counterpiracy operations are conducted in a permissive environment and PLAN sailors do not face meaningful threats. However, the expeditionary nature of the PLAN’s current

counterpiracy operations do make moderate contributions to its ability to conduct large scale war. The PLAN’s experiences in the Gulf of Aden have forced it to overcome several logistics challenges and these lessons will undoubtedly help it become more capable in sustaining large scale combat operations. Thus, the actual mission of battling piracy does not make the PLAN more capable in terms of large scale war abilities; but rather it is the fact that the PLAN is rapidly developing proficiency in supporting expeditionary operations that is attracting attention from military observers. These concerns are exacerbated by China’s construction of a naval base in Obock, Djibouti, which will give it unprecedented access to support operations in eastern Africa, the Indian Ocean, and Suez Canal.

Table 4 illustrates a consolidated summary of how each mission set presented in this paper can influence the PLA’s future ability to conduct large scale war. The left-hand column lists generalized capabilities required for large scale war. The remaining columns describe how the corresponding MOOTW mission can improve the specific capability. It is instantly clear that HA/DR and counterpiracy missions can only make minimal to moderate contributions to the PLA’s ability to conduct large scale war. On the other hand, NEO missions have the potential to significantly influence the PLA’s large scale war capabilities.

Although recent NEO missions discussed in this report have not made direct contributions to improving the PLA’s large scale war capabilities, current trends suggest that it will continue to participate in larger and more complex operations. Consequently, the effects of future NEO missions have the potential to have a more direct impact on the PLA’s large scale war capability and therefore should be monitored closely.

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Table 41. Summary of the PLA's MOOTW Future Impacts on its Large Scale War Capabilities.

The principle reason that the PLA’s current MOOTW have not had a direct impact on the PLA’s ability to conduct large scale war is due to the lack of joint integration. Although

“jointness” has become a recent focus area under President Xi Jinping, real-world operations have not yet demonstrated that the PLA is competent in integrating successfully in a joint environment. Observers should carefully monitor improvements in the PLA’s joint capability as these developments will signal increased large scale war capability.

1This table was added on the recommendation of Maj Gen Chen, the thesis committee chairman. Several of the categories in the left-hand column were developed by him; however, all analysis was done by the author.

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The final row indicates how each MOOTW mission set makes a significant contribution to China’s reputation. In reality, this is a political capability, not a military

The final row indicates how each MOOTW mission set makes a significant contribution to China’s reputation. In reality, this is a political capability, not a military

在文檔中 人民解放軍的非戰爭軍事行動: 評估解放軍擴大任務行動及其對中美軍事關係的意函 - 政大學術集成 (頁 100-145)